I’m sure most of you are tempted to throw wine in your eyes to avoid having to read GUESS WHAT GUYS ME AND CHRIS WENT TO CALIFORNIA any more times than you need to, so I’ll keep this intro short (mostly because the rest of this post is one heck of a mouthful, so maybe get ya self a little three course meal at the ready).
GUYS, WE WENT TO CALIFORNIA.
We flew in and out of LAX because flights just seemed to be so much more cheaper than flying into San Francisco (although it’s worth noting that British Airways also fly to Oakland which is just outside San Fran and it’s likely that flights will be a ~bit~ quieter and possibly even cheaper).
We booked a hire car (a medium SUV because we felt like a ‘big’ car would feel safer on the American roads) through Hertz which cost about £350 for 12 days and included a sat nav and a second named driver.
And the only other thing we booked (aside from travel insurance and Alcatraz tickets – which were through Attraction Tickets Direct, and booked alongside a city bus tour) was our first night’s accommodation in LA so we didn’t have to think too much about anything aside from what to order from In-N-Out Burger when we landed.
We decided where we wanted to go each morning and booked hotels last minute using Booking.com and Hotel Tonight (which is an app basically offers pretty decent last minute deals on well-rated hotels).
So here’s what ya gal did….
NIGHT ONE – LOS ANGELES
Accommodation: Super 8 Culver City (from £130) – a basic motel chain, but clean and close to LAX and Venice Beach. A good budget fallback.
Spoiler: Accomodation in Los Angeles is ahem, not too kind on the ol’ bank balance. We booked this up because it’s a chain I’ve stayed at before with Trek America and it does the job.
We landed at around midday and by the time we’d tackled the two-hour immigration queue and got to the hotel were v much ready to just walk to In-N-Out burger and then crash out on the bed with rubbish but brilliant American TV.
NIGHT TWO – SANTA BARBARA
Accommodation: Harbor House Inn (from £180) – a cute boutique hotel with NETFLIX and incredibly comfy beds. A little pricier but one of our faves from the trip.
We were keen to get out of LA pretty sharpish and get traveling up Highway One, so early on our first morning we moseyed 90 minutes up the coast to Santa Barbara. And oh hubba, it was easily one of my favourite places. Picture palm trees and sunshine but without the traffic and y’know bustle, of Los Angeles.
There’s a pier and lots of bike rental places and although it’s super chilled out it felt like there was still a lot going on.
Food-wise we didn’t eat anywhere I’d jump at eating again, but there’s a lot of seafood options if that’s ya jam.
NIGHT THREE – MORRO BAY
Accommodation: Morro Shores Inn & Suites (from £75) – Basic and budget but annoyingly not walking distance from town. Although it is pretty close to the beach.
Now, I wouldn’t say Morro Bay is necessarily worthy of a full overnight stop, but it’s picturesque and there’s some great little thrift shops in town – plus it’s on Highway One, so ideal if you’re driving up to San Fran.
We went kayaking and saw sea lions which was pretty aces, and ate at Taco Temple which looks a ~bit~ like a shed from the outside but apparently is the place for Mexican food. We had the burritos which were approximately the same size as newborn babies but hubba freakin’ hubba, the nachos looked insane and I still have food regret.
NIGHT FOUR – MONTEREY
Accommodation: The Monterey Hotel (from £100) – A super old hotel in a great location that was nice enough (it’s Victorian so was probs once v grand and impressive back in the day) but Chris had a real problem with the ahem, slight poo smell.
Now, I had really, really bigged up Monterey in my head before we went because ohmygosh Big Little Lies, so it was probably always going to be a bit of a disappointment tbh.
The town was cute but quite touristy. There’s Fisherman’s Wharf which has loads of gift shops, sweet shops and restaurants which is worth a mosey, but we preferred the other side of town, just to the left, which is where we found Hula’s, a Hawaiian place for dinner. Those bao buns though. Oh sweet lordy.
The one thing worth noting about Monterey is that it gets very windy up the coast, even in the summer, so it’s worth packing layers.
NIGHT FIVE AND SIX – SAN FRANCISCO
Accommodation: Super 8 Union Square (from £140) – We were pretty happy with this for the price and location tbh, but the rooms were pretty teeny tiny, but it’s kind of what you’d expect in a city. It’s not particularly modern or sassy, but for the price it did the job.
In our original OMG WE’RE GOING ON HOLIDAY plans, we thought we might stay three nights in San Francisco. It’s a city I’ve heard so many tremendous things about and a place that’s been creeping at the top of my travel bucket list for years.
We booked an initial two nights and decided we could always add on another night if we fancied it – which we didn’t.
We did all the usual tourist stuff, we visited Alcatraz (which was pretty immense), we walked along the Fisherman’s Wharf, we went to Union Square, we spied the Golden Gate Bridge, we ate pancakes at Mama’s and yet it somehow didn’t quite live up to the image in my head. I’m a ~bit~ gutted.
We did two full days here and that was enough for us – I personally wouldn’t say you needed anymore than three to get a real taste for the city.
NIGHT SEVEN AND EIGHT – YOSEMITE
Accommodation: Oakhurst Lodge (from £170) – Not our ideal location, but it was close to restaurants and shops which was a plus. The rooms were clean and pretty big which was a bonus. Although we did hear our neighbours having sex one morning so there’s that.
Loads of people told us to book accommodation well in advance for Yosemite but like the complete fools we are, we didn’t do it till the night before we planned to arrive. No, you’re an idiot.
We stayed in a place called Oakhurst about half an hour from the entrance to the park, and 90 minutes from the Yosemite Visitor Centre where most of the popular hikes and trails start from.
If I were to go again I would defs throw all my money at one of the very few hotels based in the park itself and y’know, book at least a year in advance…
(Even our very basic hotel outside the park was one of the most expensive from our trip, just because there’s a real lack of accommodation close to the park – made more difficult by the fact the main road through the park is currently closed due to heavy snow fall).
It was hands down one of the most majestic and breath-taking places I’ve ever been and we only did one full day of walking inside the park and I so very desperately wish we’d done more.
NIGHT NINE – VENTURA
Accommodation: Best Western Plus (from £100) – we initially booked into Motel 6 but it’s a smoking hotel so even the no smoking rooms had a slight hint of tobacco, dreamy. So ended up here instead which was a 5-minute walk from Ventura centre and v adequate.
After our spontaneous decision to sack off Las Vegas and head to Palm Springs, head we realised we needed somewhere to break up the drive. Chris suggested we head back to Santa Barbara because we’d loved it so much the first time but I was all WE CAN’T GO BACK TO THE SAME PLACE. After a quick Google, I found Ventura which was ~apparently~ a hidden gem on highway one.
It had the same kind of vibe as Santa Barbara, but without the tourists, and was much cheaper because of it. We got a last minute reservation at the much recommended Cafe Fiore – an Italian restaurant that’s decked out with fairy lights and looks like a legit little magical paradise, which was delish.
Like Morro Bay, it’s not necessarily worth an overnight stay, but it’s got a cute little town centre perfect for a mosey and a bite to eat.
NIGHT TEN – LAGUNA BEACH
Accommodation: Casa Laguna Hotel & Spa (from £140) – loved, loved, loved everything about this little boutique find <3
We fancied another stop over before heading over to Palm Springs so decided to go wild and check out Laguna Beach.
OH HUBBA. I loved it. Mostly I loved our hotel . We got free sangria and an upgrade on arrival and I loved the deep blue Moroccan-inspired interiors. GUYS IT WAS FANCY. There was a Mr Porter magazine on the bed and mother freakin’ Cowshed products in the bathrooms.
We drove down through Newport to satisfy the O.C. fan girl (and fan boy) inside us, and the coast and beaches were just divine. I’d actually really recommend.
NIGHT ELEVEN AND TWELVE – PALM SPRINGS
Accommodation: Ace Hotel (from £150) – super cool, super chilled out, plus great food on site and TWO SWIMMING POOLS.
I booked two nights at the Ace Hotel for Chris’s birthday so we could spend 48 hours doing nothing but lazing by the pool, drinking watermelon daiquiris and napping. It was all kinds of sweet, sweet heaven.
If you’ve ever stayed at the Ace Hotel in London, this is part of the same chain and has a similar v v cool vibe. And yes, it’s mega Instagrammable – there was an orange striped wall outside our room which I was obvs pretty smug about.
It felt a bit hipster, but was brought back down to earth by the fact there was so many families chilling by the pool as well as hotties in thong bikinis. Which was a nice combo.
I loved the almost creepy vibe of Palm Springs (it’s basically just a super hot little city in the middle of the desert) and it was the place we ate some of our best meals. I highly recommend both Kings Highway (the restaurant at the Ace Hotel) and The Tropicale which had the best calamari this calamari queen has ever eaten.
A much lazier and sexier alternative to Vegas.
NIGHT THIRTEEN – LOS ANGELES
Accommodation: La Quinta Inn & Suites Inglewood (from £110) – basic but close to the airport sooooo.
We spent our last night in your average close-to-the-airport hotel and it was nothing to shout about mostly because my UberEats driver couldn’t find us and so I never got to meet the mozzarella dippers I’d been dreaming about all trip. RIP you special little guys.
Los Angeles seems to be one of those places where you can pay £120 for a shit hotel at the airport, £200 for a slightly less shit hotel at the airport or £400 for a nice hotel in a decent location. After looking at our bank accounts we decided the £120 option was the only way forward. Lolz.
THINGS I’D DO DIFFERENTLY
I’m gutted that we missed out Carmel (v close to Monterey) as so many of you bigged it up, but we had to race on to San Francisco because of our Alcatraz booking, so would definitely stay there next time.
I’d also spend an extra day in Yosemite and try and stay in the park because it very much feels like a once in a lifetime experience.
I would have loved to have seen more of Big Sur, but sadly a 30-mile stretch of Highway One is closed due to a landslide and unlikely to open for the rest of 2017, if not longer. I’d been told that the views from that stretch of road were just insane (we drove about two hours out of our way up to the road closure and even that was pretty OMFG HOW IS THIS EVEN EARTH).
Admittedly we didn’t really dedicate any time to seeing Los Angeles or doing any of the tourist things like seeing the Hollywood sign or posing by that pink wall (which I believe has now been repainted in rainbow stripes?). Mostly because we were always raring to set off in the car and escape the city. Driving through LA it’s not obvious where things are, so I’d like to go again and fully immerse myself in it.
THINGS I’D RECOMMEND
I wasn’t overly impressed with many of the places we ate (I THINK I AM BROKEN, SOMEONE HELP ME) but v much adored the cruffins – half croissant, half muffin – from Mr. Holmes Bakehouse.
I also highly rate In-N-Out burgers very highly for a good on-the-road lunch (and they’re super cheap).
We also programmed our sat nav every few days to help us find a Wholefoods. Mostly because ain’t it fun to just throw away your money but also because we spent a lot of time craving fruit, and their salad boxes make a relatively healthy and delicious lunch.
Going south of LA wasn’t something we’d thought about, but I loved the Laguna vibe and would have loved to have tried a night in neighbouring Newport too. So if you’re driving down to San Diego they’re well worth spending a night in.
AND BREATHE. Soz that has been such a beast of a post. Let me know if you have any questions and I’ll do my best to hook a girl up. I HOPE THIS HAS HELPED SOMEONE. GOOD DAY.
P.S. I only used my camera for vlogging (video coming next week!) so the imagery in this post is all down to the trusty iPhone.